Friday, February 05, 2010

Playing a Role


A press release from the Society for Research in Child Development explains the findings of a new study:

Moms influence how children develop advanced cognitive functions

Executive functioning is a set of advanced cognitive functions — such as the ability to control impulses, remember things, and show mental flexibility — that help us plan and monitor what we do to reach goals. Although executive functioning develops speedily between ages 1 and 6, children vary widely in their skills in this area. Now a new longitudinal study tells us that moms play a role in how their children develop these abilities.
The study "looked at 80 pairs of middle-income Canadian moms and their year-old babies." (Apparently, all the fathers were out hunting mastodon.) Here's how the lead author describes her findings:
"The study sheds light on the role parents play in helping children develop skills that are important for later school success and social competence," according to Annie Bernier, professor of psychology at the University of Montreal and the study's lead author.
That's pretty straightforward, and reflects the language of the paper itself. So why does the press release focus on "moms," as though executive functioning were dependent specifically on the (middle-income) mother's presence and level of engagement? Beats me. But since this sort of distortion often happens when research into gender roles, sexuality, and parenthood is summarized for the media, I assume that the people in charge of PR know their market, and have a good sense of which emphasis is more likely to get the research noticed.

Which leads me, naturally enough, to this quote from Pierre Bourdieu:
[S]ocial scientists, and especially sociologists, are the object of very great solicitude, whether it be positive - and very often profitable, materially and symbolically, for those who opt to serve the dominant vision, if only by omission (and in this case, scientific inadequacy suffices) - or negative, and malignant, sometimes even destructive, for those who, just by practising their craft, contribute to unveiling a little of the truth of the world.

3 comments:

liliannattel said...

The angel in the house and all that? It is funny how Victorian we still are.

Rmj said...

for those who, just by practising their craft, contribute to unveiling a little of the truth of the world.

Always dangerous. Especially to those who think they know the truth. And are threatened by those who aren't so sure.

Phila said...

Especially to those who think they know the truth.

You mean some people don't?